Representing traditional ecological knowledge in northern Australia

Nauiyu community leader Patricia Marrfurra McTaggart, CSIRO’s Emma Woodward and Molly Yawulminy with the Ngan’gi calendar. Credit: Michael Douglas, TRaCK
Nauiyu community leader Patricia Marrfurra McTaggart, CSIRO’s Emma Woodward and Molly Yawulminy with the Ngan’gi calendar. Credit: Michael Douglas, TRaCK

Traditional knowledge can tell us much about the ecology of northern Australia.

The Nauiyu community from Daly River in the Northern Territory have worked with CSIRO’s Emma Woodward to create a seasonal calendar.

The seasonal cycle recorded on the calendar closely follows the cycle of annual speargrass (Sarga spp.), with many of the 13 seasons identified named according to speargrass life stages. For example, the season known as ‘Wurr wirribem dudutyamu’ occurs when speargrass seed heads are swollen and are hanging heavily. The term ‘taddo’ refers to the sounds of the seed heads knocking together as they start to open up, and indicates that the rainy season is nearing its end.

The Ngan’gi seasonal calendar represents a wealth of traditional ecological knowledge. The development of the calendar was driven by a community desire to document seasonal-specific knowledge of the river and its wetlands, including the environmental indicators that act as cues for bush tucker collection.

The calendar also addresses community concern about the loss of traditional knowledge, as older people from the language group pass away and younger people no longer use Ngan’gi as a first language.

The research is part of a Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge (TRaCK) funded project on Indigenous socio-economic values and rivers flows in northern Australia.

For more information: CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Emma Woodward, Tel: +61 (8) 8944 8409, Emma.Woodward@csiro.au, people.csiro.au/W/E/Emma-Woodward

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